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Gender Wage Gap

  • Revised: September 18, 2012
  • Content last reviewed: April 2014
Gender Wage Gap

The gender wage gap is the difference between wages earned by men and wages earned by women. The gap can be measured in various ways, but the most common method is to look at full–time, full year wages. It is also possible to measure the gender wage gap on the basis of hourly wages. The most recent Statistics Canada data (2011) shows that the gender wage gap in Ontario is 26% for full–time, full–year workers. This means that for every $1.00 earned by a male worker, a female worker earns 74 cents. In 1987, when the Pay Equity Act was passed, the gender wage gap was 36%. The gender wage gap has been narrowing slowly over time.

The gender wage gap is caused by many factors, such as:

  • women choosing or needing to leave and re-enter the workforce in order to meet family care-giving responsibilities, resulting in a loss of seniority, advancement opportunities and wages
  • occupational segregation in historically undervalued and low-paying jobs, such as childcare and clerical work
  • traditionally lower levels of education (although this is becoming less of a factor as more and more women graduate from all levels of education)
  • less unionization amongst female workers
  • discrimination in hiring, promotion and compensation practices in the workplace

The Pay Equity Act as a Policy Response

Statisticians estimate that as much as 10 to 15 % of the gender wage gap is due to discrimination. There are many policy options that governments pursue to address the various components of the gender wage gap. In Ontario, the Pay Equity Act addresses that portion of the gender wage gap that is due to the systemic gender discrimination in workplace compensation practices. The Act puts the onus on employers to establish and maintain compensation practices that that provide for pay equity by comparing female job classes and male job classes and adjusting the job rates of female job classes so that they are at least equal to the job rates of comparable male job classes based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.

Almost all Canadian provinces and the federal government address gender discrimination in compensation practices. For a summary of the pay equity initiatives in Canada go to: An Overview of Pay Equity in Various Canadian Jurisdictions

The Pay Equity Office is one of several agencies whose work serves to meet Ontario's national and Canada's international commitments to United Nations and International Labour Organization conventions regarding labour and equity standards in the workplace.